Over the past couple of weeks, headlines have been forecasting more bad news for whānau. At the beginning of March we learned that the national school lunch programme is under review (and likely subject to funding cuts), and this week we heard about new restrictions to the funding available via the Ministry of Disabled People. There is no doubt that these announcements are a blow to whānau throughout the country, and contribute to the ongoing sense of unease. Yet again, our current Government has demonstrated that it simply does not prioritise the wellbeing of our most vulnerable members.

Ka Ora, Ka Ako |Healthy School Lunches was launched in 2019, and has been supporting tamariki and whānau throughout the country by providing access to a nutritious lunch in school, every day. Around 20 percent of tamariki live in households that are struggling to put healthy kai on the table at home, and we know that whānau Māori are disproportionately represented in this statistic. Serving approximately one million lunches per week, Ka Ora, Ka Ako goes a long way in making sure that tamariki in eligible schools have access to healthy kai and are better able to participate in education. Although it is a relatively new initiative, parents and teachers are unanimous that it is absolutely making a positive difference.

Ka Ora, Ka Ako – Healthy School Lunches Programme is funded until December 2024, and Associate Education Minister David Seymour is currently reviewing the programme before deciding on its future. I appreciate that it is appropriate to review all new programmes, however, I hope that Minister Seymour’s review is being undertaken in good faith. I cannot’t
help but have some reservations given that he has already said that he is looking to cut its funding by as much as 50 percent. Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu has supported a number of initiatives over the years that have targeted whānau wellbeing in similar ways and we have seen first-hand the impact it can have when families know they can rely on access to just one nutritious meal a day. I sincerely hope that the positive impacts of Ka Ora, Ka Ako are taken into account when deciding whether to extend the programme’s funding – in fact, I hope that they are the primary factor in the Minister’s decision.

Meanwhile, this week the Ministry of Disabled People announced new limits on what tāngata whai kaha can access funding for. Everything about this news has been the exact opposite of mana-enhancing, from the decision itself, to the fact that the initial announcement was made on Facebook, and that the decision seems to have been made without consulting the very community it is affecting. The lack of consultation in particular undoes much of the progress made by Enabling Good Lives (EGL), the approach to disability support that has been in place since 2011. EGL puts decision-making in the hands of tāngata whai kaha, giving them greater choice and control over their own lives although this is not the case here. Tāngata Whaikaha Māori tell us that Whānau Ora is the Māori version of Enabling Good Lives.

The decision-making in the hands of whānau is essentially the approach we take in Whānau Ora. Here at Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu we wholeheartedly believe in supporting the independence of whānau to make their own decisions and realise their own aspirations, and we strongly condemn any decisions made by the Ministry for Disabled People that move away from this approach. I acknowledge that there has been an apology issued for the way that the news was delivered, but it still seems clear that the new restrictions will make it more difficult for tāngata whai kaha and their carers to work together.

The role of Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu remains the same in the face of these new challenges – we will continue to advocate on behalf of our whānau and hapori, and to do our very best to secure funding to deliver back into the hands of those who will use it best – the very communities it seeks to affect.

World Indigenous Cancer Conference

Last weekend Toihi Mahuika-Wright attended the World Indigenous Cancer Conference in Melbourne, an event that brought together First Nations cancer researchers, clinicians and advocates from around the world under the theme of Process. Progress. Power. Toihi was one of three rangatahi Māori with lived experience of cancer who were asked to attend the conference. Alongside her cohort, she spent the first day of the conference participating in a youth forum where she contributed her whakaaro on her experience and the importance of cultural safety practices. Toihi was diagnosed at the beginning of 2023 and is currently in remission.

We are so proud of Toihi for contributing to such an important kaupapa and on a global scale. The World Indigenous Cancer Conference is an opportunity to identify international research priorities, foster new collaboration, enhance capacity and share knowledge about indigenous people living with cancer.

University of Canterbury lecture

On Wednesday Toihi added yet another string to her bow by visiting the University of Canterbury to deliver a guest lecture. She spoke to students about the mahi of Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu in supporting whānau-centred solutions to community needs, as well as Tai Neke, Tai Ora and the importance of providing a space to prioritise whānau Māori working in hauora Māori spaces. It was an awesome opportunity to share the Whānau Ora message and increase awareness of the work that we do.

Tai Neke, Tai Ora panel

Last week our independent panel convened to review applications for Tai Neke, Tai Ora and make recommendations for funding. We are proud to be able to partner with Māori initiatives under the Whānau Ora banner to forge mana motuhake pathways for health and cultural resilience, despite the current nationwide challenges to Māori wellbeing. Over the next few weeks, we will be confirming funding and reaching out to successful applicats to get their kaupapa underway!

Mana Wāhine Wānanga

At the beginning of March our partners at Mataura Marae began a series of Mana Wāhine wānanga. These weekly sessions are facilitated by Sheryl Henare and Cheree Downes, and will continue until 3 May. They are an opportunity for wāhine to engage in growth through a whole range of cultural and creative pursuits, from waiata, karanga and mihi, through to whakapapa, pūrākau, creative writing and toi. Each wahine explores their tuakiritanga – their identity – and their history, as well as considering the realities of living in today’s world and making a plan for a brighter future for themselves, their tamariki and mokopuna.

Kaimahi hou i te tari

We recently welcomed Poharama Nopera to the tari as the Kaitauwhiro Taura Tangata – Relationship and Fund Development Champion Tū Pono. Tū Pono is the strengths-based kaupapa within Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu that supports whānau-centred solutions for eradicating family harm and violence. Poharama brings extensive experience in te ao Māori, demonstrated through roles such as a Māori Learning Advisor, Cultural Supervisor, and Whānau Ora Navigator. His academic background includes a Bachelor in Māori Performing Arts, a Diploma in te reo Māori (Full Immersion), and a Diploma in Social Services, equipping him with a deep understanding of cultural practices and community development. Nau mai, haere mai, Poharama.

Pride Week, Monday 18 – Friday 22 March

Colour, colour everywhere, flags and balloons with a shared lunch and Kahoot on the Friday.